Georgia False Claims Act

Tony Munter summarizes the Georgia False Claims Act below and compares it to Federal law and the FCA laws of other states. He is not licensed in the jurisdiction of Georgia.

History of Georgia FCA Legislation

The structure of the Georgia False Claims Act is a little unusual, both in that the state actually has two False Claims Act laws and that one of those laws has special procedural requirements, which differ from those in many other states.

First, the State enacted a pretty standard Medicaid-only False Claims Act in 2007 in the form of the State False Medicaid Claims Act (Ga. Code. Ann. §§49-4-168 et seq.). This law is limited, as the name implies, to claims involving State Medicaid funds. It has provisions for whistleblower rewards, and it is a true qui tam statute in that it allows for a private right of action so that an individual to sue on behalf of the state when Medicaid funds are at issue. It also provides the right to sue for whistleblower retaliation.

This law remains in effect in addition to the fact that Georgia sensibly decided to add to this law. Now the state also has the Georgia Taxpayer Protection False Claims Act. G.A. § 23-3-120 et seq. (A little note to legislators working in other states—if you name a law a “taxpayer protection act,” it’s harder to vote against, and it’s an accurate depiction of what these laws actually do…)

Details and Procedural Nuances

The new law creates some complicated procedural issues. We are indebted to Jason Marcus of Bracker and Marcus in Atlanta for providing some greater depth of understanding of this particular law.

Basically, if a whistleblower were to pursue a Medicaid scheme in Georgia, they would file those type of cases under the original Medicaid False Claims Act. This is particularly true in the event of a nationwide healthcare scheme, since the procedural requirements imposed by the more general False Claims Act create an extra hurdle.

On the other hand, an individual filing under the more general law is required to obtain permission from the Georgia Attorney General’s office prior to filing the case in Court. However, that additional hurdle aside, this is a very strong law indeed for Georgia False Claims Act cases that do not involve Medicaid.

It provides for the right to sue when the defendants act to defraud Georgia through virtually any state program.  It includes liability for county, municipal, and virtually any kind of government funds in Georgia as well. Finally, the law includes whistleblower reward provisions similar to the federal law of between 15 and 30 percent.

Conclusions

This idea that the Attorney General must approve a filing prior to bringing the complaint to court does complicate matters a bit.  In practice, this could lead to fewer cases being filed or being allowed to be filed. It seems unlikely, however, that the Attorney General’s Office would use this provision to prevent meritorious cases from reaching Court, as that would only prevent the State from collecting money.

Still, it is an additional hurdle and in principle detracts from the idea of a qui tam allowing an individual to have a private right of action. Even if it takes two whistleblower reward laws to do it, though, the Georgia False Claims Act has provided ways to file cases for Medicaid claims and for all other kinds of claims involving fraud against the State.

Tony Munter Whistleblower Attorney

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